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Crowd at Rotorua Railway Station prior to departure of troops Leaving home was a very sad time. Many would never return. For those who did, it was often years later.

Crowd at Rotorua Railway Station prior to departure of troops for active service

Statistics from the Great War (World War 1)

117 175

102 438

10 870

3 950

1 877

1 469


41 317

New Zealanders enlisted to go to war.

New Zealanders left NZ to go to war.

New Zealanders were killed in action.

New Zealanders died of wounds.

New Zealanders died of sickness.

New Zealanders died while training or after discharge.

New Zealanders were held as prisoners of war.

New Zealanders were wounded.

In the First World War, after the ANZACs left Gallipoli many of them headed to The Western Front to fight. The Western Front went from Belgium to Switzerland, with most of it being in France. The Front was made up of trenches. A trench is a long ditch, a place for soldiers to shelter from the bullets. As soldiers moved towards the front line of trenches, they could feel the earth shake due to the gun fire. The Germans were also in trenches, sometimes just a few metres away from our soldiers.

Life in the trenches was very tough especially in the winter. Sometimes soldiers would have to stand in freezing water or mud for up to a week.

New Zealand soldiers in mud and snow

A soldier in a muddy trench

Snow covered battlefields

Three members of the New Zealand forces tramping through mud and snow at the front during world War Two A soldier knee deep in a muddy trench Snow covered battlefields near Hooge, Belgium

It got so cold that when the soldiers woke up their eyelashes and their lips would be stuck together with ice.   Some soldiers broke their arms or legs by falling on slippery surfaces. Boiling water would quickly start to freeze. Soldier's feet would swell because they had been standing in cold water for a long time. As well as getting very cold, many ANZACs got very sick because of the terrible conditions in the trenches. The Germans got cold too. Sometimes they would leave their trenches so that they could stamp their feet and get some exercise. When they did this, the Germans and the ANZACs kindly ignored each other and didn't shoot.

A soldier and barbed wire

Barbed wire often covered the ground between the enemy trenches.

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A World War Two soldier and barbed wire, in the defended locality of the Western Desert, Egypt

One problem with the trenches was that you could get shot if you looked over the top. The ANZACs had some good ideas for getting around this problem.  How do I make a periscope?

Soldiers had to carry all of their belongings. This was called their kit. In World War 1 an ANZAC's kit consisted of: his pack, water bottles, a small shovel, a spare water bottle, ammunition, 2 cotton bags to hold their food (called rations), 2 empty sand bags, a compass, a map case, plate, knife, fork and spoon, cup, pocket watch, bandage, and later a gas mask. Each soldier had 2 woollen blankets and of course a rifle.


Soldiers on the troopship Dunera

It could take weeks for ships to get home. Soldiers were usually feeling pretty homesick and looked forward to the first glimpse of their homeland.

Soldiers on the troopship Dunera



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(Info) Januaryl, 2006